Rob Carney & Cats

Karen Knorr_The-Maharajas-Apartment-Udaipur-City-Palace-600x480

Karen Knorr

In October here at Escape Into Life, we join the Internet in its ongoing celebration of cats, kittens, kitties, kittehs, etc. Here are some new poems, with felines in them, by Rob Carney, as well as a long poem from his newest book, 88 Maps. See the links below to find out more about the book and to see more of Carney’s poems here at EIL, including one in CatOber 2016 (and past CatObers…!)

When a Black Cat Crosses Your Path,

it means you’re probably in a neighborhood.
When a narwhal crosses your path,

it means you’re in a boat. Somewhere
in the Arctic Ocean,

twenty-three hours of daylight,
the sun just sailing the horizon, never down,

and not that sexy Borealis
doing its dance of the seven veils, spinning green

around colors wrapped in other colors, no.
But crazy anyway. This planet is a miracle.

With its hammerheads and hummingbirds
and bears and swimming unicorns

and somewhere probably a person
you think is loveliest of all.

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If You Want to Make the Alphabet, 

then twenty-eight lions are two too many.
You paint each one with a letter,

teach the Ancient Art of Parading,
yet a couple of them are left over

to hunt gazelles, maraud
through the audience.

So now you’re concocting the umlaut
and that Danish o with a slash mark through it,

but your alphabet prefers to slash giraffes
and teach a science lesson:

“This here, kiddos, is the femur. A leg bone.
If you had more bite-force, you could taste the marrow.

Of all the African flavors,
you should savor it the most.”

Karen Knorr_The-Inheritor-Moti-Maha-Mehrangarh-Fort-600x480

When I Asked My Friend the Entomologist,


          “Is it true . . . does a female praying mantis kill its mate
          by biting its head off?” she said, “Sure,
          but at least they’re honest about it.
          And they get it done with faster than a woman.”
          She’s pretty thin herself,
          wears toughness like an exoskeleton,
          but I’ve seen her run across a football field behind a moth
          just because they’re beautiful,
          because you don’t see many in the daytime,
          and she’ll buy herself a dress for New Year’s Eve—
          one year it was monarch orange,
          another it was dragonfly blue, knee-length,
          dramatically backless.
          She said it was a kind of camouflage,
          that she had to blend in with the champagne bubbles.
          “But yeah,” she admitted, “I’m hoping for some of that too.”


          When I asked what she meant about women,
          she didn’t explain. My yard was more interesting:
          A baby bird had fallen out of its nest,
          and my cat had killed it and set it on a rock—

          a nice flat one, almost like a dinner plate—
          and I wanted to know what was eating it, hornets or bees? 
          She could have answered on the phone, of course,
          but figured she might as well come on over.

          The bees were gone by the time she got here . . .
          just ants, a fly, doing clean-up work inside the rib cage.

          She said, “It doesn’t take a scientist to be an observer.
          You’ve spent some time around women; you tell me.”

          It’s been a good summer for bumble bees.
          Something about the weather:

          rain in April, and for once
          an unscorched June.
          Last month, one of them was different though.
          It had a bright red circle on its abdomen.
          “Probably Bombus centralis,” she told me,
          “as common in Utah as dandelions.”

          But then, since I’d come all the way to her lab,
          she said, “Unless . . .”.
          I’ve always like that word—like a lighthouse
          keeping an eye on possibility.

          I tend to forget that a lighthouse is signaling risk.
          “Unless it’s sylvicola.
          They typically stick to Montana, Wyoming,
          parts of Colorado.

          They’re rare around here,
          but sometimes they’ll surprise.”

          She picked up a marker,
          lifted her T-shirt,
          drew a bright red circle on her stomach.
          She said, “Bombus centralis or sylvicola, which am I?” 


          A praying mantis would have answered her
          and had it add up to a story.
          A bee would have flown with that invitation to the hive.
          There would have been honey.

          I guess that’s the upside of instinct:
          You know what to do.
          I stand on the porch some nights
          and listen to the unison crickets,

          or maybe my cat brings a hummingbird moth in the house
          and the chase goes from windows

          to light bulbs.
          Some days I look at those bird bones

          and hope she comes around.
          I’ve heard there are ants so strong

          they can carry away a person’s anger.
          I want to ask my friend the entomologist if that’s true.

Rob Carney in CatOber 2016 at EIL

Rob Carney in Cat-at-Strophe at EIL

Rob Carney at EIL

Rob Carney in Looking for Love at EIL

Rob Carney at

Rob Carney’s 88 Maps at Lost Horse Press

Rob Carney’s 88 Maps via University of Washington Press

Review of Rob Carney’s 88 Maps at The Rumpus

Rob Carney’s 88 Maps at Sugar House

Rob Carney’s 88 Maps via Artists of Utah

More Art by Karen Knorr

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